Facebook is Secretly Advancing its Drone Tech

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Facebook has been quietly continuing with its plan to use high-flying drones capable of bringing internet connectivity to communities around the world who still don’t use the internet. The company has been secretly working for months with aerospace giant Airbus to help further the Zephyr drone project — as well as its own internet plans. The two companies are planning drone tests in the Australian bush.
The solar-powered Zephyr drones operate at an altitude of 20 kilometers and connect back to the ground via millimeter-wave radio. It is a HAPS: a High Altitude Pseudo Satellite, able to fly for months at a time, combining the persistence of a satellite with the flexibility of a UAV, according to Airbus website.
After years of development, Facebook buried its own Aquila drone project last June. However, it has embarked on the joint project with Airbus, without publicly acknowledging its interest in Zephyr.
According to a document received by netzpolitik.org, Airbus was recently awarded a drone operator certificate by the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). The planned venue for the tests is Wyndham airfield in Western Australia. The payload for the drone was to be provided by Facebook. Both Facebook and Airbus declined to provide details of their cooperation.
Previous Zephyr buyers came from the military. In 2016, the UK Ministry of Defense bought three drones for reconnaissance. If Facebook buys the drone, the company will have state-of-the-art defense technology in its hands.
The project is the yet most ambitious part of Facebook’s effort to provide connectivity and affordable services to less developed countries.
Another player that is attempting to provide internet access to remote places is Google’s parent company Alphabet. Its subsidiary, Loon, aims to provide internet access using hot-air balloons.